NEW BERN — Some artists paint pretty pictures. Mitch Lewis' work has an edge, particularly his latest show, "Darfur Legacy Series," an exhibit with sculpture, video and music on the theme of the genocide in Darfur.
His centerpiece is based on a 1994 photo that shocked the world. Photojournalist Kevin Carter captured a famine-stricken Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture. Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for his heartbreaking photo.
Three months after documenting the tragedy, he committed suicide because of depression.
"I have created my interpretation of the scene, perching the vulture atop the remains of a village which has been attacked and burnt by the Janjaweed," Lewis said. "It was a heart-wrenching story, so I decided I was going to do my homage to this photographer."
Lewis' work is part of a two-artist show at the Bank of the Arts in New Bern, along with abstract works by painter Joyce Stratton. The exhibit is free, but Lewis asks that visitors donate canned food to help with hunger closer to home through Religious Community Services.
His Darfur works address a number of issues, including brutality and rape, and the use of children as warriors.
"[The pieces] came from reading about the different situations," he said.
He found the situation of child soldiers horrid. "They kidnap these children at such a young age and turn them into soldiers. The kids can't make a moral judgment at this age, but they are capable of such horrible things when you put a gun in the hands of an 8-year-old."
Lewis, who spent 45 years as creative director for an ad agency, isn't sure how his stark representations and serious, blunt message will be received.
"Art can be beauty, but it can also be meant to chronicle and make a call to social action," he said. "At this point, I kind of see myself as a journalist, and it is really important to raise awareness of what is going on down there."
He hopes his show makes people stop for a moment and think.
"If I can elicit an emotional response, then I have achieved my goal, and certainly if people take social action about it then I have really achieved my goal."
He said the genocide in Darfur stood alone as an atrocity, and it stirred his emotions in relation to his Jewish heritage and the Holocaust.